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Trip Report Indonesia (Jakarta, Sulawesi, Bali)

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Tidbits from Indonesia:
Jakarta, Sulawesi(Manado), Bali

DH and I were invited by a friend to a family members wedding in Jakarta in May. She really wanted us to go, so we purchased our tickets nearly a year in advance. Of course as the date approached neither one of us wanted to go. DH was still recovering from his loss of 15 lbs after returning from India ill last month, and I didn’t want to leave the kids, we seriously thought of not going and just taking a loss for the tickets. Reluctantly we packed at the last minute and boarded the plane for what would become one terrific trip. Because we didn’t do the planning in the trip details, my friend made all arrangements, I can’t really do a trip report , I’ll just list a few things which may be helpful to others when going.


FM7 Resort Hotel: My friend had told me that we would be staying with her mother in Jakarta, we really did not want to stay with a complete stranger, but thought we would be polite and go with the flow, and if we needed to, we would then suggest a hotel. What a relief when my friend said that her mother was having additional company and the house would be too crowded, so she booked us a hotel, much to our delight. This hotel is located by the airport, but this is also where my friend lives so it was very convenient. The hotel is modern, breakfast was good, people were friendly, they speak limited English but they enjoy practicing with English speakers, most visitors are just one night, so they thought it was quite unusual for us to be there for four nights.

Indonesia bathrooms: I wish I had known this ahead of time. Here is a good representation: . Because we were in a hotel I had no idea how to use these, but upon visiting my friend the 2nd day, she suggested I use her bathroom before we went out, what a surprise. She didn’t tell me what to do, so I just went in and acted like I knew what I was doing. It took me two days, before I realized I was supposed to take water from the mandi or bucket and flush the toilet with it. The benefit of the Indonesian bathrooms and toilets is that they are almost always clean as everything is washed down with each use. I never did figure out how to properly shower with the mandi when I was given the opportunity, I just waited to shower until I reached the next hotel. By the end of the trip, when I was given the choice over the western toilet or the squat, I chose the squat, it was almost always cleaner. I loved the signs in the Bali airport bathroom, with the picture showing users not to squat on the western toilet.

Jakarta Traffic: Never underestimate Jakarta traffic: On our first day we ate lunch and then my friend mentioned that next we were going to dinner. I thought it was strange, but I figured I just wouldn’t each much at dinner. Four hours later we arrived at dinner and we were late, we were sitting in traffic the entire time. For 2 nights when I went to bed, I felt as if I were moving, because we were in the car so much. I’m sure we could have shaved 2 days off of our trip if we would have been able to skip the traffic.

Beauty Salons: On the day of the wedding, my friend said we would be getting our hair and make up done. The salon said I was the first white person they had ever done. They really didn’t know what to do with me. They asked me if they could wash my hair, I said yes, so they washed ( a little different than here in the states: they washed just the hair itself, not the scalp, it was almost like they were using a washboard), then she said my hair was dry and needed conditioner , would it be alright if she put some on, I said yes ( she had to open a new box of conditioner, and I had to buy the bottle, because apparantely Indonesians do not need conditioner, they have naturally silky hair). Next was the make up: They took me upstairs to a room, sat me next to a bride to be, and no one spoke english, the looks on their faces as they tried to cover up my freckles were priceless. I came out with a slight Chinese flair. DH also had a hair cut while he was waiting for us. Very inexpensive: total for 4 people including my bottle of conditioner $150.00.

Wonderful food: I was very apprehensive about Indonesian food, my only experience has been here in the states at Indonesian potlucks. Honesty, I dread going, I have never enjoyed the food. Much to my surprise, I found many options, food was delicious, restraunts were sanitary. I am a vegetarian, so I prepared myself for several days of not eating, it wasn’t necessary. Thanks to the many Buddists’ and Seventh Day Adventists’, vegetarian food is plentiful. There were a few times in remote locations I was not able to eat, but when I was, I was always happy. DH had planned on going vegetarian after India, but aftter our first day, he felt quite comfortable eating everything. In fact, at a couple places in Jakarta, the food was so tasty, we could have been eating it in Paris.

Sheraton Bandara Jakarta:
We stayed here our last night in Indonesia, its a nice hotel, but I wouldnt do it again, it could have been anywhere in the world, it didn’t feel like we were in Indonesia anymore. In addition, it was a tad snooty to locals. On the up side it has a very nice pool, fun to people watch, I enjoyed seeing how different cultures use nannies, as several different families were at the pool with their nannies, but the consensus seemed to be 1 kid 1 nanny, 2 kids 2 nannies, 3 kids 3 nannies, etc. The other upside to the hotel is that its convienent to the aiport and shuttle runs at all hours. Given the choice I would choose the FM7 over the Sheraton, but it all depends on what you want from your airport hotel.

Manado: Sulawesi:

Manado was set up so I could meet another friends family. If you are friends with one Indonesian you are friends with all of their entire family. We were met by a friends sister, who is a missionary on another island not far from Manado, she comes to Manado every 2 weeks. According to her sister (who is here in the states) she is also a tour guide. I think that may be pushing it a bit. She is however one of the sweetest, soft spoken people I have ever met. We were also supposed to stay with friends family here in Manado, but we were thankful again that their houses were not available. We really do not like staying with people, but its hard to say no to Indonesians.

Manado and the area is beautiful, we started off our tour in Manado and headed inwards toward the small villages as we ate fried bananas. I was blown away, It was incredibly beautiful. Winding roads, palm trees galore, volcanos,streams, waterfalls, lakes,beaches. Gorgeous! I wish I knew the names of all of the places we visited, but I don’t, so I recommend just getting a driver and having him drive you to all of the out of the way destinations. They really do not get many tourists here and if you are a foriegner you will be stared at and photographed more times than you can imagine.

Next up: a few hotel review and the beautiful life of the Sulawisi people.

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    Hotel Santika Manado :
    Because we were driving around all day and well into the night we just showed up here. I would not recommend it, but the location is pretty, rooms are dated, not many guests, breakfast was fine. As in most places in Manado, reservations are not needed, but be prepared to pay double if you are a foriegner. The price was $180 for us or $90 for locals. So we put the reservations under my friends name and paid for both rooms for the same cost as us alone. One nice thing about all the Indonesion hotels we visited other than on Bali, was that they provided toothbrushes and toothpaste.

    Paridis Resort: I have no idea how to get here, they don’t have a website, I don’t know about a phone, but there are a few signs in the town of Bitung; This beautiful beach resort is just a few kilometers from the village of my friends extended family. The hotel is actually closed, but if you show up, they let you stay. They say it is owned by Koreans who also own a diamond mine nearby. In desperate need of renovation, but the rooms are clean with ac and the views are breathtaking. It has a white sand beach overlooking a dead reef, so no swimming off the beach, there is swimming of the dock and a hot spring near the dock. Wonderful sunsets, no pool, not many services, but friendly sincere staff who will cook what ever you want. I think they rented out 4 of the rooms when we were there.

    Suliwesi People: I just have to say that these people are so friendly, often when driving through villages you would see groups of villagers just sitting out on each others porch, such a nice community feeling. If you want gas, it’s no problem, just pull up to the house with the coke bottles filled with gas, honk your horn once and they come right out to fill your tank. In the village we were visiting, I am sure the whole village came out to meet us. You get the feeling that the people may be poor but they are genuinely happy. And why not, its beautiful, you can grow your own food, catch your own fish, have access to clean water and schools, what else do you need.

    My friend says the Bitung does not want tourists and she is correct. We collected food from the market here to take with us on our picnic to Lembeh island. Note: the bathrooms in the Bitung market are very clean, I even saw mothers taking their children in to bathe. After the market we headed to the harbour to get a boat to reach Lembeh. The harbour is crowded, noisy, dirty.
    After very long negotiations (Indonesians love to negotiate) on reaching a price for the boat ride we were off to Lembeh. A very short ride later we were at an old dive resort for our picnic. The beach was filthy. We had to pay a small fee for stopping here. DH snorkeled and swam a bit, but trash was everywhere. I am sure that if you come with a dive operation or resort you will see better images than we saw. After the short swim, our boat driver tried to get us to stop at another resort and eat, of course we foreigners would have to pay a rather large fee. We said no, we just ate, why would we want to stop and eat again.

    After this, he took us to the Zoo. Its a small private zoo where they have the small monkeys that the island is famous for. Its just of the harbour. Please do not visit this zoo. The cage where the small monkeys are kept is fine, but the cages for the large monkeys and other animals, are way to small, food and water were not available. It left a really bad taste in my mouth.

    Note: Do not let people who don’t swim make your beach plans. It was interesting, none of the Indonesians we were traveling with could swim. I thought it was so cute that my friend, brought me a swim suit because she didn’t think I would have one. But the thing about being on boats with people that don’t swim, is that it’s scary, none of the boats we were on had life jackets. I kept thinking ,which one would I save if we tipped over. Also, non swimmers don’t really know the difference between a nice beach and a not so nice beach.


    We followed up our village tours with 2 nights at the Hotel Ritzy in Manado. .This was fine and gave us access to Bunakan, which DH really wanted to see. The hotel Ritzy is like many things we found in Indonesia, looks beautiful from afar, but on further inspection needs a little work. The AC in our room did not work, but upon inquiring about it, we were given a suite, no complaining necessary. The hotel breakfast was fantastic and the staff were very friendly. Room service was a bit difficult due to the lack of English speakers, but food was good.

    The funny thing about the Hotel Ritzy was the massage. They have signs all over advertising in room massages. I called down to get one for DH and I and they said just a minute. A few minutes later, 2 young girls show up at our door and come in. They did not bring massage tables, so I asked where they were going to do it and they said the bed. They had us each lie on the bed in our undergarments and then they massaged. At one point there were four of us on the bed and their cell phones were going off. When they left, DH and I just sat up and laughed.

    Misc Fees: One thing I noticed all over this island were the misc fees charged. They could be for a park, a road, a drive through the parking lot, or parking, They just seemed to be random and did not guarantee services. DH’s thought was that its alright to charge the fees, but they should at least do some maintanance or provide trash cans. Foreigners are always charged more, which is fine because many locals would not be able to afford large fees.

    Bunaken; From Manado we took a boat to Bunaken (after long Indonesian negotiations) In Bunaken, we really just rented snorkels and then went out to snorkel, water was warm and clear, tons of fish, but be warned there is also trash. I found it funny, that on Bunaken we went to the public toilet, and the light was burned out, the area around the toilet is trash and living conditions are not very nice, but the outrage among the locals was the burned out light. Foreigners have to pay a fee for going to Bunaken, locals do not. I am sure that if you are staying in a drive resort the area and the beach is much nicer. What I liked about Bunaken other than the water and the fish, was that while we were out on the boat, a boat of Indonesians pulled up beside us to snorkel, they were so happy. I asked my friend what they were saying and she said they were saying “ I can’t believe I can swim”. I was even able to get my friend in the water here. She swam in her clothes and held on to the anchor line, but she was in the water.

    Next up Bali

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    Enjoying reading about your trip. Just wanted to say that while there is always some trash, unfortunately, around the Lembeh Strait, this April and May they had an influx of garbage in the water and on the beaches that flabbergasted everyone. It was way worse than usual. Some of the dive resorts were taking photos of this to try to get people in the government to do something about it.

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    I had read some of the negative reviews of Bali, but I had also heard great things about it from my Indonesian friends. So I really didn’t know what to expect. I ended up being a little disappointed, but I am sure its because of where we stayed in the beginning. Somehow I was not expecting the crowds and the trash. My Indonesian friends were comparing it to Hawaii, its been a while since I was in Hawaii but I really would not compare the two.

    Jayakarta Hotel:
    It reminded me of spring break in Mexico only with families. We had an apartment, it was fine, the pool was nice, breakfast was the weakest of all the Indonesian hotels we were at. Beach was pretty, plenty of restaurants and shopping around. The one thing about the beach that bothered me was the amount of people selling things. It’s tough to get any relaxation when you are constantly being harassed, they are polite, but bothersome all the same.

    One day my friends took us to another location, and they were so excited, they said “we are going to the beach today.” We went to a beach and unfortunately I do not know the name, but it was as if we had entered a Turkish rug shop, only filled with beach activity salesman rather than rug salesman. DH signed up for a whole day of scuba diving, my friend and I went to the turtle island on the glass bottom boat. Honestly, I can say I have never been to a beach like this before in my life. Buses of tourists, tons of the glass bottom boats (although I really could not see anything in the glass bottom boats), turtle island was even different than I expected. Dh was disappointed after one dive, so forfeited the rest of the day, he said the snorkeling in Bunaken was much better than his dive. . My friends really had a great time, so although I may have been disappointed, its fun to travel with people who get so excited over everything.

    Hospital visit: If we learned anything after India, it was to research medical care before you go. Well we did not, but we did purchase extra insurance, including evacuation insurance if needed. Sure enough DH suffered a surfing injury and it warranted a trip to the hospital. He had suffered a hard blow to the head, when a wave pushed him head first in to the ocean flor. He came out barely breathing, and complaining about his spine. He was able to walk, so he went back to the hotel and rested, by morning he was still hurting, as luck would have it, a friend from home called and he looked up hospitals for us online. We had the driver take us to the bimc hospital. Let me tell you, this place is busy, tons of accidental prone travellers (massages gone awry, motorbike, surfing, etc.) Turns out DH was fine, no broken bones, just a sore neck, and he came out with a collar.

    On the other hand for minor illness, I can tell you my experience. I was suffering from a horrible sore throat for days. It wasn’t getting any better so I asked my friend what to do. She called down to the desk of the Jayakarta and explained to them, within 10 minutes they had sent up medicine and an antibiotic for less than $10.

    After our day at spent at the hospital we were on our way to Ubud. Paradise found!!! I loved it here, this is what I thought Bali was going to be like, if only we had more time to spend.

    Alila Hotel: Loved it, Loved it, Loved it and I loved the spa even more. I had two wonderful balinese massages here, complete with ginger tea and watermelon sorbet. Even DH, despite his injury, enjoyed it here.

    We finished our Indonesian trip with 2 last nights in Jakarta. We had planned on touring the mountains outside of Jakarta, but with DH's injury we didn't think the driving would be good for him. So this is where we experienced our first Indonesian homestay. My friend had told her cousin what had happened to DH and he insisted we spend the night at his house. We pleaded, "please let us go to a hotel," but no we could not win. We did have an interesting night, and I got to experience the full use of the Indonesian bathroom however miserably I failed.

    To sum it up:

    Indonesia is an enchanting and wonderful place, we’d go back in a heartbeat.

    Airlines: We used Garuda and Sriwijaya Air for our domestic flights. Garuda was nice, movies were on all the flights, however DH was sitting by someone telling him about all of the safety violations, but we made it safely. Sriwijaya was different, but we made it. The seats were the closest together, I have ever seen. When the plane takes off, they turn off all of the lighting entirely, that was a first, but the people are fun and relaxed.

    Airports: The domestic airports were easy to get in and out, smoking abounds, security is sparse, departure fees are taken at booths in the airports.

    Cathay Pacific: We flew Cathay pacific from Denver to LAX to Hong Kong, to Jakarta. We enjoyed it, and thought the flight attendants were so nice. My only complaint, is that they would not let us choose our seats ahead of time, this may be because we booked through Travelocity, but they would only give us middle seats until we were at the airport counter in Hong Kong, not Jakarta, it made for a few stressful days as we worried how in the world DH would make it home in a middle seat with his injury, but by the time we reached Hong Kong it had all been worked out. Remember to have money with you when leaving Indonesia, we had given all of our Indonesian money away, but luckily we had $40 on us to depart.

    As for the trash, I've noticed that for the last 2 years, every place we have gone is full of trash. But seeing it in the ocean as your snorkeling, really leaves an image in your head. I have made a vow to stop using plastic bags altogether, if I can't carry it another way, then I am not going to get it.

    I am going to try to post a few photos, we are not the best photographers, but there were so many things that were new to us, I'd like to share.

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    happytotravel, as a longtime expatriate resident of Indonesia I found your account charming and affectionate. I am constantly amused and amazed by the Indonesian world view: even their understanding of their own country in cockeyed. How can we fellow humans see the same things so differently?

    The fact that few people know how to swim in this island nation is astonishingly true, even lifeguards and boat crews are untrained.

    [One of my favorite examples of Indonesian folklore is that bottled water makes you fat, evidenced by all the overweight Westerners seen clutching plastic bottles. :) ]

    I think the basic premise that Western travelers have difficulty grasping is how DYSFUNCTIONAL the Indonesian government really is. This applies to rule of law, health care, education, energy, transportation, disaster response -- everything that touches on quality of life.

    What impresses us all is how the Indonesians endure these hardships with cheerful optimism and boundless hospitality.

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    I really enjoyed your report as it is from such a different point of view - seeing it through the eyes of someone visiting friends and through the eyes of the Indonesian friends and friend's family.

    Thanks for posting!

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    Thanks for posting. Some of my favorite people are Indonesians. The traffic in Jakarta is getting worse everytime I go there. My heart goes out to the people who have to deal with that stuff daily.
    As to why Indonesians don't swim, it has somewhat to do with the following myth. Ask your friends to tell you the story. I found a little bit here:

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    Thank you for a very engaging and personal account of your trip. I have only been to Jakarta, Bandung, and Ubud so I read your account of Sulawesi with particular curiosity since I would love to go there

    We were charmed by the Alila Ubud as well (although I hope all the stairs weren't too uncomfortable for your husband with his neck brace).

    I look forward to seeing your photos.

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